There was a complete turnaround from the third game, to the fourth since the Flyers found a way to become even healthier with the return of both Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere. The change in personnel made all the difference.
Now, the Canadiens will face elimination scenarios from here on out. However, Montreal is no stranger to these circumstances. They are now even more desperate for a win, and on the other side of the coin, the “Bully Boys” look to have a strangle hold on the Eastern Conference Finals.
The emotion inside the Bell Centre was sky high from the start. The Philadelphia Flyers brought their usual intimidating attitude, but the “Habs” did not back down. Initially the Canadiens came out alive just like in game three of this series, peppering Flyers net minder Michael Leighton early and often, but that all changed after the first intermission.
Not only was Leighton dominant in the crease on Saturday, but also the Flyers turned up the heat in the second period with an opportunistic performance and being efficient when chances were presented on a silver platter.
A perfect example was when Flyer winger Claude Giroux raced passed Montreal defender Josh Gorges, who was slowed by an equipment issue relating to his skates. Giroux received a pass from Kimmo Timonen after a botched dump by the Montreal defense.
The second period was all orange and black. Montreal looked like they were running on fumes for the remainder of the game. The Canadiens in the middle frame mustered only one shot on the Flyers net. Michael Leighton was stellar in the first period, but from that point on, he had an easy day on the job and ended the game with his third shutout of the series—the first time a goalie achieved that feat since 2004.
The return of Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere were a huge boost for the “Fly Guys.” Carter showed no signs of a lingering injury, as he split two Canadiens’ defenders at the blue line and had the first true scoring chance of the game. Laperriere did not have a hand in any of the scoring, although his physicality was evident from his first shift on the ice and continued until the final siren.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring chances usually come from mistakes or blunders by the opposing squad, and that was the case when the Flyers increased their lead to 2-0 late in the second period.
P.K. Subban was skating up the ice as his linemate Roman Hamrlik was heading to the bench for a line change. Flyers winger Villie Leino sat back and watched the play develop. The “ageless one,” Chris Pronger, stole the puck from Subban, spotted Leino racing down the ice for a breakaway, and before you knew it, the Flyers were celebrating their second goal of the period, and the air began to seep out of the Bell Centre.
Maybe it is a compliment to Pronger, but every chance the Bell Centre crowd had to “boo” Pronger, they did. Possibly, it is a sign of respect and homage for a player still working hard deep into his career and striving to lift up the Stanley Cup at seasons end for the second time in his career.
Late in the game, Claude Giroux, who already scored earlier in the contest, added a last minute empty net goal to close the book on game four and make the final score 3-0.
There is no doubt that the Flyers have the fight of a bulldog, from the coaching staff, all the way down the bench, including the city of Philadelphia.
The heart and soul of the Flyers is embodied in their playing style, and even when the Broad Street “Bully Boys” were against the ropes last series versus the Bruins, they fought their way out of the corner, and now the Flyers find themselves one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Although their backs are against the wall, the Montreal Canadiens are once again faced with a 3-1 series deficit, just like their first round series with the number one seeded Washington Capitals, and everyone knows how that series turned out. Montreal also roared back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to inch past the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So, if any Philadelphia Flyers fans think this series is over, think again! The Eastern Conference Finals has plenty of hockey left and lots of end-to-end excitement as it heads back to Philadelphia's "rockin' sea of orange" Wachovia Center Monday night for Game 5.
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